Friday, 29 January 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S01E02 - 'Pilot, Part 2'

The main issue I had with the first episode of Legends of Tomorrow is that, while it was definitely a fun start to the series, it felt increasingly messy by the end. It just felt as though there was simply too much ground that needed to be covered, and that the creator's of the series had made a serious mistake in trying to cover it all over such a short period of time. The end result was an episode which, while still perfectly entertaining, simply wasn't the resounding success that I was hoping for from this series.

Thankfully, though, it turns out that there was one clear positive to the first episode's efforts to cover so much ground, after all - that being that, with so much of the necessary scene-setting already out of the way, this second half of this two-part pilot is free to get straight to the action. In the previous episode, we had the newly formed team trying to come to terms with the necessity of working together was they attempted to uncover some much needed information about Vandal Savage - here, meanwhile, we have the team trying to put that information to good use, as they make their first move against their immortal foe.

Right from the start, this episode had a clear sense of focus that the previous one seemed to lack - with the team, still in the 1970s, now finding themselves in Norway as they plan on infiltrating an illegal arms deal that they have reason to believe Vandal Savage will be attending. Of course, despite the best efforts of both Leonard Snart and Professor Stein to play the part of arms dealers (resulting in highly entertaining performances from both Wentworth Miller and Victor Garber), things don't quite go according to plan. First, it turned out that Vandal Savage wasn't there as a buyer, but was the one selling weapons - meaning that he was much too public a presence for the team to attempt to snatch, as they had planned. Then, there was the fact that Savage could sense the presence of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, thanks to the mystical connection he shares with each of them. And, finally, there was the simple fact that Stein's continued efforts to play the part he had taken on ultimately only seemed to confirm the growing suspicions of both Vandal Savage and Damian Darhk who, it turns out, was also there as a buyer - looking much the same in the 1970s as he does in the present day (as a side-not, this quick cameo from Damian Darhk was a great touch - something which, while obviously not important to the story being told in Legends of Tomorrow, does serve as an effective reminder of exactly how formidable a foe Darhk is for Oliver Queen on this season of Arrow).

The result of all of this was a truly fantastic action sequence, which fully show-cased the widely varied skills and abilities of each member of the team. Not only was it a well-shot and well-choreographed action sequence, but it was also a highly entertaining moment - something which would have served as a suitable end to an episode of any regular show. But, of course, this doesn't quite go the team's way either as, despite their best efforts, Vandal Savage was still able to escape - and, a broken off piece of Ray Palmer's highly advanced suit fell into the wrong hands.

Later, the team returned to their ship only to learn that, as a result of this single mistake, the future is suddenly in danger of being significantly altered. Unless they are able to recover that missing piece of Ray's suit soon, Vandal Savage will be able to reverse-engineer new weapons of his own from this future technology which will significantly advance his long-term plans to conquer the world.

It's clearly a desperate situation, made more complicated when it turns out that the only person who can help is Professor Stein's younger self - who just so happens to have been researching the same particles which power Ray's suit, and who has developed a device that can help them track down the missing piece. It's a fairly contrived coincidence, sure - but, it leads to some genuinely entertaining moments as Professor Stein suddenly finds himself caught up in a Back to the Future situation as he tries to deal with his younger self, without revealing anything that could alter his own future. Also, having Sara and Jax only serves to make these scenes more entertaining, as Sara ends up flirting with Stein's younger self while Jax simply enjoys the increasing awkwardness of the situation.

Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and the ATOM, meanwhile, are sent on a mission to steal a dagger which could potentially be used to finally kill Vandal Savage - the same dagger, it turns out, that Savage used to kill Hawkman and Hawkgirl in their original incarnations, so long ago. This mystical connection which binds the three of them is probably the one element of the series that I have struggled to accept - and, this newly introduced idea that Vandal Savage can only be killed by a certain dagger wielded by a certain person really isn't helping. It's not the magical element, in itself, that bothers me (it's strange to see elements of science fiction and fantasy blended together so overtly in a single series, sure - but, the comics from which the series draws its inspiration have always been this way) - instead, it's the simple fact that it all just seems so poorly explained. With all the time spent setting up the cast of Legends of Tomorrow on its parent shows, it feels as though more time still needed to be spent revealing the exact nature of the relationship between the trio who seem to be at the centre of the entire conflict - and, establishing the rules of whatever strange magical force it is that binds them together.. As things stand, there is a frustrating sense of the writer's simply making it up as they go along, here - which might not actually be the case, of course, but that's just how it is starting to feel, to me.

Of course, all of that aside, the mission to steal this conveniently placed dagger still provided the audience with some great character moments between Leonard Snart, Ray Palmer, and Mick Rory. Pairing up two professional thieves with the show's most enthusiastic 'super-hero' was always going to be a great source of humour - but, it also led to some surprising moments of character development for Leonard Snart and Ray Palmer, in particular.

As played by Casper Crump, Vandal Savage still might not come across as being as charistmatic or as intimidating as some of the best villains that have appeared on Arrow or The Flash - but, he continues to display a calm certainty in himself and his own abilities which gives him a more understated sort of menace. So, while I might have enjoyed some more overt scenery-chewing from the show's primary villain, he is still proving effective enough.

Overall, this was a fantastic episode of Legends of Tomorrow - one that was able to make the most of the momentum established by the season's first episode as it threw us right into the action. Much like with the previous episode, it was those moments of interaction between the show's wildly varied cast of characters that served as the primary high-light - though, here, the episode also benefited from some fantastic action sequences which provided a similar show-case for their wildly varied abilities. If the season's first episode didn't quite convince you that Legends of Tomorrow is worth your time, then this one definitely should have.

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